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Witness requirement while voting may be nixed in Virginia during COVID-19

absentee voting
Posted at 4:20 PM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 18:02:13-04

LYNCHBURG, Va. -- Some voters in Virginia may not have to obtain a witness signature while voting in the June primary election.

Following a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Virginia, the state of Virginia has reached a partial settlement agreement to remove the state’s “witness requirement” for voters whose health would be at risk if forced to comply with the requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agreement pertains to the June 23 primary.

Traditionally, any voter who submits an absentee ballot by mail must open the envelope containing the ballot in front of another person, fill out the ballot, and then have that other person sign the outside of the ballot envelope before it is mailed back.

If approved by the court for voters who believe they cannot safely find a witness, the witness requirement will not be enforced for the upcoming June 23 primary, and the Commissioner of Elections will be required to inform voters about the change and provide updated guidance to local election officials.

As the ACLU wrote in its complaint in this case, the Virginia code does not require a witness signature for an absentee ballot to be counted, but this requirement is imposed by a regulation of the State Board of Elections that can be changed.